Guest blog: Get out of your comfort zone

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Our guest blogger this week is one of my favorite authors, Michele Wolfe. She has recently written a book in the new adult genre called The Three Graces: “College juniors Jessie, Isabel and Sara are linked in an unlikely friendship by visits to hidden places only they can see. Together, on a trip to Hearst Castle in California, an earth-shaking encounter with a stunning stature in the gardens binds them to the spirits of the Three Graces; Brilliance, Joy and Bloom.” There’s lots of life lessons for these young women as they learn about the true meaning of friendship and make some fascinating discoveries along the way. Here are Michele’s thoughts on getting out of your comfort zone:

I live in a 1922 bungalow-style house on one of the many hills of my Echo Park neighborhood in LA. The other day I wasthumbnail washing my car with a bucket of soap and water in front of my house. A petite woman in her 80s, with the help of a cane, began hobbling up my hill. She stopped once, probably to catch her breath, and had almost passed me by when I made some comment about the steep climb. She stopped and looked at me, and I stopped my washing and took a good look at her, too. Her clothes were frayed and worn, her eyes filmy, her face wrinkled, and her teeth almost all missing.

We chatted for a few minutes. She used to live in the neighborhood she said, but had to move downtown. I knew it certainly wasn’t to a fancy loft or apartment. Probably skid row housing, if that. She asked for a dollar for the bus ride back. I ran into the house, but my wallet was empty of cash, not even a dollar. I raided my teenage son’s coin jar and managed to scrape together five dollars. When I handed over the coins, she pressed her hand to mine in gratitude. Then she hugged me. She was overcome.

That moment took me back to a time in my life when the touch of a hand or hug from a grateful homeless person was a daily gift. I lived and worked almost two years in shelters in Denver and LA. Both experiences opened my eyes and changed my life.

For the better. Was I overwhelmed, out of my depths, scared witless at times during those two years? You bet.

Being blonde and blue-eyed and having grown up in a middle-class suburb had kept me safe and secure in a nice little bubble. So living in a shelter, cutting vegetables for big vats of soup, handing out bandages and alcohol wipes to the poor of skid row, showed me real suffering and injustice; a reality I hadn’t truly understood before.

I learned compassion. A way of being we often harden our hearts against as we make it through our busy, tumultuous lives. Especially when we are trying to finish college or start a career. We get caught up.

I also learned to value time in the present moment. Whether it’s ten minutes, an hour or an afternoon, opportunity awaits. Reaching outside ourselves, outside our comfort zone, to connect with someone in need, is human dignity and respect made visible.

And you don’t have to have loads of money, like Oprah or Angelina Jolie to do it. Just coins from a jar. Just a moment of your time. Just a step outside. Look around. It won’t take long to find a person or a place in need. In need of you.

To read more from Michele, or to purchase her new book, visit:

authormichelewolfe.com

44. Make sure you know what your red flags are and when someone you meet is waving them.

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So, I was on a date last night and there was some interesting conversation. Somehow, the topic of “red flags” came up. I don’t redflagthink that when I was in my 20s that I was looking out for those as much as I should have. Or if I noticed any, I completely ignored them because by the time I did notice them, it was too late. I was already in ADD – another dating disaster. I got to thinking about what my red flags are today as now I’m now more aware of them because my friends will constantly point out, “Red flag!” when I mention the behaviors of some of the people I’ve dated/been dating. My date and I did a little brainstorming last night and here are the red flags he hopes he doesn’t find with someone he just starts to date (there are just five – but I thought they were all pretty good so I’ll share them):

  1. Smoking
  2. Past addictions
  3. Issues with exes
  4. Unemployed
  5. Mentally unbalanced

This got me to thinking about my list. What are the red flags that make me want to run (besides 1-5 above)? So here are a few more that I’d like to throw in:

  1. Does not live in their own place
  2. Late
  3. Cheap
  4. Current addictions
  5. Poor/nonexistent relationships with family and friends

I’m sure there’s a few more on your list (and mine). But this is a good start for some basics. It can be difficult to ignore the red flags when you meet someone you’re really into. But as I’ve learned, if they’re there to begin with, they’ll be there when you end it. And it’s a lot more painful at that point than just going out on a few dates.

Here’s a more detailed list of red flags from Psychology Today, aptly titled: “Thirteen Dating Red Flags for Women:”http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/millennial-media/201312/13-dating-red-flags-women

Word to the wise: Dating is hard. But being in a bad relationship – even harder. Take some time to think about what your red flags are and know how to recognize them when you see them.

What are some of your red flags and how has knowing them helped you to become more successful in your dating life? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

43. If you can count your true friends on one hand, then you can also count your many blessings.

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They say it’s hard to know who your real friends are. And they’re not kidding. Whether you’re single or married, the love and1973463_HiRes.jpg_friends friendship of close female friends is not a luxury – but a necessity for survival. Like air or water. It’s good to know early on the difference between an acquaintance and a true friend. It’s taken me a long time to learn and appreciate what those differences are. For example, a true friend:

  • Applauds your successes
  • Tells you the truth (even when you don’t want to hear it)
  • Encourages you to be your best
  • Holds your hand and hugs you when you cry like a baby at practically every song at a Diana Krall concert, especially this one, “Just Like a Butterfly That’s Caught in the Rain:” http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xn42tQkKzw
  • Eats carbohydrates with you, although they appear to have been banned by the entire female race
  • Makes you feel like you hold a special place in their heart
  • Shows up – even when they may not feel like it
  • Tolerates your quirks and your cooking
  • Supports you in ways no one else can

These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think of the women I’m fortunate enough to count on my left hand. In a recent Huffington Post article, Lena Dunham’s character in “Girls,” Hannah Horvath wrote, “A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance.” The article further stated, “We’d argue that this sentiment holds far beyond the confines of university. The women in your life are there for all the serious stuff, like health scares and accompanying you to the funerals of loved ones, as well as the moments that make you laugh until you can’t breathe. You can tell them the deepest secrets about yourself and your family, and count on them to pick up the phone at any hour.” To read more, check out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/10-reasons-nothing-like-female-best-friends_n_3874647.html and see how their list compares to mine. So here’s a special shout out to my friends! (And you know who you are). May we continue to be there for each other through life’s triumphs and tragedies. You might want to give a shout out to yours, too. Word to the wise: Know who your friends are and keep them close. It’s not easy making friends and as we get older, it can be even harder. Cherish the ones you have and foster and grow those friendships that you think have potential. What’s special about your BFFs? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”  

42. Spending time with your parents now is a gift you may not have later.

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I understand when you’re in your 20s this may be easier said then done. For many of us, our natural instincts arethumbnail to pull away from our parents and push toward independence. But there needs to be a balance. Some people never resolve parental issues and their parents die and that’s that. Only they’re left with all the things they didn’t say. And then there are those who lose their parents when they’re all too young. I had a friend who was only 24 when she lost her mother to cancer. She grieves this loss every day. Fortunately, both of my parents are still alive, and we are close. But it wasn’t easy to get here. Living nearby helps – although some would argue it’s better to be far away. Whatever your situation or age, it’s important to get to know your parents and help them get to know you. While they can be your biggest judges and critics, they can also be your hugest supporters. Because they’ve been around longer, they also typically know more than you do about most things (even though they may make you want to scream sometimes). But don’t just take my word for it, here’s an excerpt from The Learning Network (http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/how-close-are-you-to-your-parents/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0) in the New York Times: “Our research shows that the closer bonds between young adults and their parents should be celebrated, and do not necessarily compromise the independence of the next generation. Twenty-five years ago, young people sought advice and help from naïve peers. Today’s young adults may be savvier than their predecessors; they receive advice and help from middle-aged adults with greater life experience and material resources to offer.” And now I’m going to contradict everything I just said. On the other hand, every one has a time in their lives where they bond strongly with their parents and also a time when they don’t. For better or worse, this has been my experience. But it doesn’t have to be yours. Can you think of ways you can spend more time with your parents today?

Word to the wise: If you think your parents are going to be around forever, think again. Make the most of the relationship you have or improve the one you don’t. You’ll be amazed at how much better life gets when you do.

What’s your relationship with your parents like? How can you improve it? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

41. Have a monthly game night with the girls.

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This idea comes from my stepmom, another very wise woman. She has a friend who started this tradition in her2026939_HiRes 20s and decades later, these ladies still get together to play cards. If you’re not into cards, it can be bunko, a book club, wine-tasting night or anything that you and your friends enjoy. It’s also nice to take turns hosting. That way each of you spends time at the other’s places. The main thing is, that you stay connected. I wish I had a group like this when I was in my 20s because I miss a lot of the friends I had back then. And maybe if we had done this, we’d be like my stepmom’s friend, still in touch and building on years of memories and friendship. Fortunately, I have a great group of women in my life now and we have been getting together for happy hour from time to time. Since some of us recently moved, we thought it would be fun to have happy hours at our houses, where the host provides the munchies and the guests bring the beverages. While not a traditional game night, it will get us all together in a more relaxed and intimate setting. As time goes on, we may even play some games. Here are a few fun ideas: http://www.brit.co/game-night-ideas/. I just might have to get “Anomia:” ‘Take advantage of all the random information floating around in your head with this game that requires you to face off with other players and race to give a correct answer to the question on your opponent’s card’.” After a few glasses of wine, all of us may have a lot less random information in our heads and hopefully a few good laughs. Make it a point to get together with the girls in your life. It’s good to know they’re there for you and you for them.

Word to the wise: Keep your friends close. Establishing a routine with your friends now can give you comfort and stability for years to come.

Got some ideas for game nights or how to get them going? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

40. If you want something, visualize it, although you may find you don’t want it after all.

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I was having lunch with a very mature 23-year old the other day and as humbling as it was, she seemed to knowdreamstime_s_26320973 more than me about many things. I think it was Aristotle who said, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” I was fascinated how, at such a young age, she knew how old she wanted to be when she got married, that she wanted to have children and that she will easily be able to balance her career with family. She also wants to live on the beach in a beautiful home. She described how she could see herself on the balcony and could feel the ocean breeze at night. She said she saw all of this for herself and is confident it will happen. And strangely enough, I believed her. I’ve heard over the years about visualization, that you have to picture something you want in your mind and that you will get it.I always thought of this as mumbo jumbo – I am a bit of a cynic. But the more she spoke, the less sure I became of my stance on this subject. She said that if I couldn’t visualize something, it meant I wasn’t ready for it. Damn, that girl was smart. She got me to really start thinking about what I want. Some of us have the extreme fortune, like my 23-year old friend, of knowing early on how to pave the path to their dreams and desires. But even if you don’t, there’s no harm in trying. So if there’s something you think you want, try to see it. And if you can, then maybe you’re ready for it. 

Word to the wise: It doesn’t hurt to visualize. All that’s required is you and your mind, which turns out, truly is a powerful thing. Here’s a little something to help you get started: http://www.qualified-lifecoach.com/Visualization.html

What do you think about visualization? Has it ever worked for you? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”

39. Starting a good yoga practice now will result in a killer mind and body for life.

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I really wish I had begun my yoga practice much earlier than I did. I think it would have helped to keep me moredreamstime_s_15683581 focused and grounded through my terrible 20s. Because as hard as my life was back then, I would have realized that yoga is way harder. For one thing, it requires commitment and concentration. It also requires practice. And it can be frustrating as hell – especially if you’re not naturally flexible and can’t do the splits while standing on the palms of your hand. But the benefits, and there are many, outweigh the challenges. One of the main things I like about yoga is that there’s no loud music. In fact, as much as I love it, I find that no music is even better. There’s also something to be said for silence and the sound of your own breathing. I think one of the most important elements, and one that will get you into it for life, is finding a good instructor and the type of class you like. For me, that’s a Vinyasa (Ashtanga) flow class, which is a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. The class I take is 90 minutes of constant movement. Yet it focuses on finding peace in the poses. As one of my instructors says, “The pose should feel like a happy puppy.” Many of us laugh when we hear this because we feel more like tortured puppies, depending on what we’re doing. But maybe one day, after many more years of practice, I’ll have that experience. Perhaps if I had started in my 20s…

Word to the wise: “Warning: Yoga has been known to cause health and happiness.” For a few more words of wisdom about yoga, check out https://www.pinterest.com/pedrovalmeida/yoga-quotes/. Oh and, Namaste.

Have you ever tried yoga? Note: If I’m lucky enough to get a book deal, your comments may be published anonymously in the upcoming book, “Wise Before 25, 50 Things Young Women Need to Know.”